2007 William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Ages 5–17
The Students of Wheaton Academy
Nominated by the AFP Illinois, Chicago Chapter
In 2002, a group of high school students at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago, Ill., decided to help raise funds to build a school for children in a village in Zambia, Africa, that had been devastated by the AIDS pandemic. Prior to that point, the students had little background in philanthropy and had never before envisioned taking on a major fundraising project.
It began when a student leadership team of 11 seniors decided to challenge the student body of Wheaton to get involved. Yetno one was sure exactly what to do. Inspired by One Life Revolution, a joint effort of World Vision, an international humanitarian organization, and Youth Specialties, which equips youth group leaders, the students viewed a catalog of items that can be purchased to assist children in Zambia. They decide to raise funds for the most expensive item in the catalog: $53,000 for the first-ever schoolhouse in a small community named Kakolo Village.
Their fundraising encompassed a number of different projects, including a car wash, special Zambia dress-down days where students paid to have a relaxed dress code for the day and the sales of school football shirts—despite not having a football team at their school! Collection of coins and loose change raised an astounding $8,000, and one extraordinary collection plate during the school’s chapel service gathered $5,000 from students and faculty. By the end of the school year, the students had raised more than $78,000, enough to not only provide the funds for the schoolhouse, but also purchase one of every item in the original catalog.
In the 2003–2004 school year, the students raised almost $60,000, providing 525 families in Zambia immediate food provisions and seeds, tools and animals for long-term food security. More than 200 students participated in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine, where they abstained from food for 30 hours while gathering sponsors for contributions to their project.
The next year, students focused on health issues, raising funds for a new medical facility near the schoolhouse in Zambia. Nearly 40 different student-led fundraisers raised more than $117,000 for the maternity wing portion of the clinic.
In the 2005–2006 school year, students raised nearly $150,000 to build a youth outreach center in the same village in Zambia, help purchase medical equipment, build homes and provide clean water. The students’ goal for the current school year is to raise enough money to build the second phase of the original schoolhouse built four years ago with their help.
Overall, the students have raised more than $460,000 with the participation of 500 students every year. However, the connection between the school and the village in Zambia has grown much stronger than just the raising of funds. Students and their families have visited Zambia to play soccer, see the tangible results of their work and celebrate together with the students and people they have helped. The entire community has gotten involved in the wildly creative fundraising events, and the students have a grander vision to expand their impact by getting an additional 1,000 schools across the country involved in responding to the needs of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In recognition of their incredible achievements, AFP is honored to present the students of Wheaton Academy with the 2007 William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Ages 5–17.